Parents' Guide to Solano Avenue - 510 Families

Parents’ Guide to Solano Avenue

Solano Avenue offers a charming collection of restaurants, shops, and local businesses. It stretches from Albany, all the way up the hill to North Berkeley, and has a bunch of terrific family gems.

With the help of Carleigh Rochon and Angela Martinucci, the two moms who run Bay Area Brain Spa (also on Solano Avenue), we’ve rounded up our favorite kid-friendly spots, from tasty pies to independent toy stores. Thanks to Bay Area Brain Spa for sponsoring this post!

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Carleigh & Angela in their Solano Avenue spa location

When We Take The Kids To Solano Ave, It’s Usually For…

(Carleigh and Angela’s top picks)

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Enjoying some fro-yo in the cute little parklet outside of As You Wish and Hal’s Office coffee shop | Photo: Julie Herson
  • As You Wish: The best after-school treat, this frozen yogurt spot allows you to serve yourself and charges you by weight. My kids LOVE this place. Outdoor seating is available at the cute little parklet (grab some coffee at Hal’s Office while your kids enjoy their fro-yo).
  • Five Little Monkeys: A fabulous independent toy store with such a great selection and free gift wrapping!. (Bonus: a clean bathroom for customers!)
  • Oori Rice Triangles: When there’s sticky rice and food as a shape, toddlers will be willing. We love how easy it is!
  • Pegasus Books: A new and used bookstore with a kid section where you can sit and read.
  • Picnic Rotisserie: The best to-go food! Not sure what to make for dinner? Carleigh’s family loves to create a sample dinner of Picnic’s amazing homemade sausages! And you must get an Edith’s Pie for dessert!
  • Little Star Pizza: A fancier but favorite option for our family if we’re in the mood for deep-dish. It’s down at the West end of the strip. Lovely outdoor seating area.
  • Toy Go Round: A community treasure halfway down Solano, on the 1300 block. Used baby toys, construction toys, train tracks, books, doll clothes, and Playmobil sets. (Editor: One item I bought there was in excellent condition but missing a couple of pieces. Ask to open the package if necessary) Second-hand toys are about 60% of the current retail prices. This is a great source for a used trike or board games.
  • Duo Grill House: The sweet potato fries are not to be missed.
  • Mr. Dewie’s Cashew Creamery: Not just for those steering clear of dairy. Founded by a local Berkeley brother team who know their ice cream.
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So many great finds to be had at Toy Go Around in Albany | Photo: Julie Herson

Favorite Solano Avenue Services for Families

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Tutu School on Solano in Berkeley

Quick-stop Food Options for Kids

Cactus Taqueria
Cactus Taqueria | Photo: Anna Azimi
  • Noah’s Bagels: At the top of Solano is a Noah’s Bagels, if you’ve managed to get out of the house during the breakfast hour, grab a dozen or a sandwich for a park playdate. (Editor: Bagel snobs may not relish a Noah’s bagel, but your kiddos will happily enjoy theirs.)
  • Cactus Taqueria: For lunchtime, Cactus Taqueria is an excellent choice with inexpensive kid-sized portions, and chips, plenty of chips.
  • Lavender Bakery: Just down the block, at the intersection of Colusa, there’s a European-inspired cafe with beautiful pastries and tasty coffee.
  • Andronico’s: This Safeway-owned grocery store has a full deli counter and many ready-to-eat items if you are considering an outdoor lunch at a nearby park.
  • Peet’s or Starbucks: Both easy options for hot cocoa and some nibbles are where Solano is crossed by Colusa Ave.

Pro Tip: Pop over to Thousand Oaks Elementary, half a block from Solano, to use their playground during the weekend or summer hours with your snacks.

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Having fun at Thousand Oaks Tot Park | Photo: Kat Choi

Real Food for families on Solano

  • Zachary’s Pizza: A much-loved Chicago-style pizza restaurant located near the top of Solano.
  • Barney’s Burgers: Halfway down the strip, Barney’s Burgers can be customized with pretty much any topping, any meat, or no topping, and in the case of my kids, no meat. (This is known as a grilled cheese sandwich.)
  • Solano Junction: A causal, family-friendly coffee shop that makes great pancakes and egg dishes. (Organic! And free-range!)
  • Bowl’d Korean Rice Bar:  Lots of parents and kids like this spot and they offer a fun kid-friendly plate.
  • iSlice: A small little pizza spot ideal for a quick slice.
  • Boss Burger: A seriously good burger, but also chicken, veggie, and hot dog options. Soft serve for dessert!
  • Cafe Raj: This family business has been cooking up curries in this spot for many years. Introduce your kids to Indian food early!

Bonus food tip: Parents on a date with a baby in tow might enjoy some tasty tacos and beer at 5TacosAndBeers. Order a side of avocado for the babe or guacamole if she likes a little flavor.

99 Kid-friendly Restaurants in the East Bay>>

Summer Pizza Picnic
Grab a pie to-go for a pizza party at the park | Photo: Anna Azimi

Sweet Treats for Kids on Solano

  • iScream: Artisan and fresh ice cream with the most delicious cones. Malted chocolate is a fave of ours.
  • The Xocolate Bar: The aroma alone is worth the visit to this local chocolate shop. The drinking chocolate is quite a treat.
  • Suzette Crepe Cafe: A super casual cafe with crepes both savory or sweet, combining whatever ingredients you want.
  • Tay Tah Cafe: Across the street from the Albany Post Office, they serve Tapioca drinks and Mitchell’s ice cream. The smoothies are super tasty for a healthier treat. A few tables available for outdoor seating.

More Shopping with Kids on Solano

  • The Stone Room: For your rock collecting kids. Tons of beautiful treasures to be found.
  • Chloe’s Closet: Cute little kids’ clothing and toy consignment store. You can find great second-hand snow clothes for the littles here.
  • Flowerland: Just across from Toy Go Around. A plant nursery, but also a hip destination. The plant selection is vast, and the attached shop is a well-curated gift shop, plus an onsite tricked-out Airstream sells Highwire coffee.
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This beautiful mural is at the corner of Masonic & Solano on the Abrams Claghorn Art Gallery | Photo: Julie Herson

Activities for kids on Solano

  • Solano-Peralta Park: A “secret” park with a sandy play area, shade, and seating.
  • The Exercise Yard: Just past the intersection of Solano and Masonic in Albany, some fun logs to balance on, exercise equipment, and seating for a snack time.
  • The Albany Y: Lots of great kids activities, from Kindergym drop-in to Kid’s night out (offerings and classes often change; call to confirm).
  • Albany Twin Movie Theater: An old-timey theater that shows two titles at a time, so keep your eyes peeled for kid-friendly movies.
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The Albany Exercise Yard is a great place to work on your balancing skills | Photo: Julie Herson
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Watching the BART, buses, and cars on Solano | Photo: Julie Herson

Did we miss your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks to Carleigh and Angela for sharing their enthusiasm for the neighborhood surrounding Bay Area Brain Spa. Learn more about their services here >

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3 thoughts on “Parents’ Guide to Solano Avenue”

  1. There is a “secret” tot park in Peralta Plaza at 1559 Solano Avenue (at Peralta and Capistrano Avenues) that is run by the City of Berkeley. It’s tiny, but great on a hot day, because there is lots of shade, benches for parents to relax on and (you may not want to point this out to the kids) a tot-height faucet that encourages water play.

    Bonus – you can score some ice cream or cold drinks at 7-11 and enjoy them at the park.

  2. For more information you can check out SolanoAvenue.org
    It is also home to the famous (family friendly) Solano Avenue Stroll every second Sunday in September since 1974. The Solano Avenue Association 510-527-5358 / solanoavenue.org thanks!

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